By Stephen Eibes —
The University of Wisconsin–Stout men’s rugby team came into Saturday’s game against University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee on a two-game winning streak, beating Universities of Wisconsin LaCrosse and Platteville to start their 2014 season. The winning did not stop against UW–Milwaukee, as the Blue Devils rolled over the Panthers with a convincing 47-5 win.
UW–Stout came out strong and had a try by Brad Dufek (Sr, Ashland, Wis.) and conversion by Peter Wikman (So, Edina, Minn.) within the first two minutes, continuing their hot start. UW–Stout then produced three scores on three tries by Jack Puetz (Sr, Cudahy, Wis.), Adam Fagerstrom (Sr, Wilmar, Min.) and Captain Damon King (Sr, Big Bend, Wis.) to end the first half on top 26-0.
UW–Milwaukee scored on a try to begin the second half to shorten the deficit to 21 points, but UW–Stout once again turned on the gas. Puetz soon scored his second try of the game, while Wikman and Mitchell Pohlman (So, Loyal, Wis.) kept piling it on, with two more tries to finish the game, leading to the final score of 47-5. Wikman finished six for seven on conversions.
In an interview with Club President Wikman, I asked what the key to Saturday’s game was. He responded confidently, saying, “Rugby is a complete team sport. It’s 15 players playing together; it’s never one player. We started a little slow in the first half, but by the second half we definitely came together. We were making our offloads, making our hits; we played amazing defense. We are like a well-oiled machine. Every player was making tackles and every player was scoring.”
Wikman couldn’t have said it any better, the team looked like a machine, and was on a mission. They played with confidence and maturity that rivals the best club teams in the nation.
The team’s success hasn’t only come in Saturday’s game. As of Sept. 19, the team is ranked 12th in the nation according to RugbyToday. The team is focused and ready to take on each game as it comes.
I caught up with Team Captain King after the game and asked what has attributed to the team’s success this season. He stated, “I feel that we’ve got some veterans that are really committed, and we’ve got some young guys with some experience. That allows us to just play our game, instead of trying to teach rugby, which we are more than welcome to do, but it’s easier to win when we have people who know how to play.”
I also asked King what goals the team has set this year, and what the team wants to accomplish when it’s all over. “We want to go win a national championship…we want to build a successful team that creates a legacy, and the bigger the team, the more powerful the team, the better. Let’s go show people what Stout can do.”
If you haven’t seen a game yet this season, or if you haven’t seen a rugby game before I would highly suggest going to see the Blue Devils play. They are an electric and fun team to watch–every player on the team is truly dedicated to the game of rugby and give it their all on every play. UW–Stout’s next home game is against University of Wisconsin–Whitewater and it should be a great match-up.
UW–Whitewater is ranked second in the nation by RugbyToday, but the Blue Devils are in a good position to continue their winning ways. The match is scheduled for Oct. 11, which is Homecoming weekend, at 1 p.m.